As Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond raised the speed limit, and as Secretary of State for Defence he allowed women to serve on Royal Navy submarines. But on Wednesday, the Chancellor made the most important announcement of his career as he delivered the first post-Brexit autumn statement, one which paired giveaways with grim forecasts.
Elsewhere, President-elect Trump attacked Scotland’s ‘awful’ windfarms, Humza Yousaf was accused of being out of touch with Scotland’s trains and a BMG poll found some Scots would accept a “hard border” if it meant they could remain in the EU.
And so to Mr Hammond and his first post-Brexit budget. He promised the UK government would facilitate “fiscal headroom” to support the economy and that growth is forecast to be 2.1% this year, and 1.4% in 2017. The reduction is due to predicted lower investment and weaker demand in UK products from overseas, not to mention ongoing economic uncertainty and higher inflation.
In terms of Scotland, the autumn statement is a special one with the country now having substantial tax powers in place. Mr Hammond announced that Scotland’s capital budget is set to be given an extra £800m over the next five years as part of an investment package and he confirmed a City Deal agreement for Stirling, and made clear that he is considering proposals from Perth and Dundee.
The Chancellor also announced the UK government would no longer be seeking a budget surplus in 2019/20. Other announcements included a £2.3bn housing infrastructure fund to help provide 100,000 new homes in high-demand areas, as well as the news that the National Living Wage is set to rise to £7.50 from next April. £23bn will be spent on innovation and infrastructure while insurance premium tax is set rise from 10% to 12% next June.
Meanwhile, it was claimed Donald Trump has urged Nigel Farage to campaign against windfarms in Scotland. During a meeting in New York, the first with a British politician, Mr Trump also claimed Mr Farage would be a “great” UK ambassador to the US. Unsurprisingly, the idea was quickly shot down by the UK Government. Elsewhere, Scotland’s Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf was forced to give an emergency statement on Scottish rail services. This follows repeated concerns over ScotRail’s reliability since Abellio took over. Unfortunately for Mr Yousaf, his statement was followed by major disruption to services in Glasgow due to a fault in overhead power cables.
And finally, an exclusive poll for the Herald by BMG Research found two out of five Scots would accept a ‘hard’ border with the rest of the UK if it meant staying in the EU. The findings also suggested that 57 per cent would prefer Scotland to be outside the EU if that meant it could retain free trade and open borders with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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